A nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, considered a political victory by the European Union, is at stake as Tehran suspended its commitments after the killing of Gen. Qasem Suleimani by a U.S. airstrike.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed in 2015 between Iran and Russia, China, France, the U.K. and the U.S. plus Germany, known as the P5+1.
The EU sees the deal as a matter of prestige due to its role in the process.
Catherine Ashton, former high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, played a key role in 2009 in the process.
She conducted negotiations with Iran until the end of 2014, and deal was possible because of her “determined and steady” negotiating capability. Some experts suggest the agreement should be called the “Ashton Agreement.”
Former EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is committed to the Iran agreement with the same determination.
The EU, therefore, considers itself to be an architect of the treaty, which was shaped by intensive efforts of union bureaucrats, along with Ashton and Mogherini.
After the deal, EU’s imports with Iran increased 31.5% and exports increased 83.9% in 2016-2017, showing economic interests are important for member states.
EU yet to established a joint policy
After the head of Iran’s elite Quds force was killed Fridayby a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, Iran announced it ended its commitments under the 2015 deal.
The Iranian government noted, however, that it will continue to work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the international body tasked with monitoring the agreement’s implementation.
Tehran said if U.S. sanctions are lifted and benefits are provided, it is ready to return to the agreement.
EU member states did not respond to the crisis with unity.
Following the developments, the President of the European Council Charles Michel, who took over the post last month, called for a reduction of tensions in the region.
High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Forell Fontelles, talked to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif via telephone and invited him to Brussels for talks on the deal and recent escalation with the U.S.
Germany, France and the U.K. urged Iran to refrain from violent actions while demanding Tehran should avoid measures that are not in line with the nuclear treaty.
Foreign ministers EU countries also announced they would meet Jan. 10 in Brussels.
EU stuck between Iran and US
Following the withdrawal of the U.S. from the nuclear treaty and re-imposing sanctions on Iran, the EU had to back the agreement on its own in the West.
On the one hand, the EU, which is uncomfortable with and expresses Iran’s regional activities, has worked to keep the agreement independent of the developments.
But the EU had to deal with increasing tensions on many issues regarding transatlantic relations, especially after Donald Trump took over the U.S. presidency.
The EU call of “reducing the tension in the region” after the killing of Soleimani and not showing a clear stance is perceived as not wanting to upset Iran and the U.S.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement that he expects more support from Europe is thought to cause unrest in Brussels.
The EU, which does not want to lose Iran on the one hand, is worried about possible taxes by the Trump administration, especially in the automotive sector.
Although the new leaders of the EU, EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, EU Council President Charles Michel and High Representative Borell, voiced their aim to make the EU a global actor, they have failed to make any policy rather than “condemning” or “concerning” about issues in the Middle East.